When the acoustic livestreams just aren’t cutting it.

When I first got word that I would be writing a monthly music column for Talkhouse, I immediately had a bunch of ideas. Right now, though? It seems sort of absurd for me to yell at you about most of the stuff I had in mind. You people obviously don’t need me talking about our current bleak reality, either. So what should I do?

If you are like me, you are probably mildly burnt out on the neverending drip of mostly mid music livestreams clogging up all our social media feeds. I know that musician’s hearts are (usually) in the right place, but with a few great exceptions, I’m not that interested in an acoustic guitar and a webcam, or a DJ controller and a Winamp visualizer. There is potential in the form, but it currently often feels overcrowded and under-conceptualized. I’m just trying to keep things 100 percent with you. The one time I streamed over the past month, for 10 minutes total, I didn’t even attempt to play any music.

One saving grace of the internet is its function as an archival container, though those archives are often fleeting and fucked up (don’t get me started on Myspace). Now is a good time to take advantage of all that. 

Below, a few of my favorite live performances that you can watch, right now, on the internet, for free. The list is in the classic dumb Boxxx style: a confusing mix of legends and underground heroes, united by a certain intensity of spirit. Watch these videos and try to wrangle some positivity out from deep inside.

7th Street Entry
Minneapolis, MN

I’m likely one of the only people on the internet really flying that Neon Hunk flag. There is maybe a WFMU DJ or European noise nerd out there, too, but I feel like I have taken it upon myself to let people know what is up with this legendary rainbow rock band.

For those unaware, Neon Hunk were a masked synth and drum duo from my home state of Wisconsin who put out a few 7 inches, tapes and one full length on the Providence-based Load Records, home of a whole crew of costumed freakout bands. They broke up in 2004. Since Neon Hunk had connections to the local Milwaukee hardcore scene, they acted like a bridge for me to get into all the new wild East Coast psychedelic punk happening at the time — Lightning Bolt, Paper Rad, Forcefield. I will be forever grateful.

But beyond that, they were just a weird, life-affirming band. This set is a perfect 15 minutes, and it really has all the fixins: the duo yelling through inaudible mouth-mic’d vocoders, home modded rubber masks, and minute-long blasts of insanity that someone once called “Pokemon grindcore.” 

I showed Neon Hunk to some friends at the college radio station WPRB, and now they are obsessed. That is what this is all about: sharing inspiration and keeping the flame burning. I wish I still had my Neon Hunk shirt.

The Ark (?)
Brooklyn, NY

One of the best things about this video is witnessing an early version of the group’s live show in a small packed club kind of environment. Versions of these songs and skits would ultimately end up on their legendary “Showtime At The Apollo” performance a year later. I remember catching that Apollo show on TV as a kid and being blown away — the whole thing felt so ecstatic and loose, but of course it was the end result of a lot of craft and preparation.

There is a lot of inspiring stuff in this 14 minute video: an extended intro section where Wyclef plays guitar on top of “Shook Part, Pt. II,” a battle over a flip of “Walk On The Wild Side” that morphs into a manic dancehall freakout, Lauryn going off over “The Bridge Is Over” before the beat switches to “Ice Cream” and Wyclef jumps in with a rendition of “La Bamba.” Listen, people. I could go on. 

Just pure American chaos performance and music magic.

Albany, NY

Charles Bronson were from DeKalb, Illinois, which always intrigued me, because that’s where I was born. Not so many bands from DeKalb. The fact that one of the more legendary, spastic acts to come out of the larger ‘90s powerviolence scene was from this unassuming Midwest college town — DeKalb doesn’t hold the countercultural weight of Madison or Champaign-Urbana — always carried with it a minor amount of mystery.

Hardcore shows at wood paneled VFW-ish halls will always hold a place in my heart. Keep all the lights on — why not. Things are real bright. Drummer is wearing a Wu-Tang shirt. Mark McCoy is cracking jokes and jumping around like a jackass. This is the good shit!

The Tunnel
New York City

The amount of energy packed into this very short clip is enough to keep me running in place inside alone for hours. It’s enough energy for me to forget reality for a short amount of time. Enough to feel some level of fleeting positivity about the world. 

Of course, then it all goes to shit. But I’ll just rewind. DMX is one of the best performers of our generation. Rollins is cool, but DMX is better. As I write this, it feels like due time to go on a serious DMX binge, starting with his 2006 reality show. Cam’ron is in fine form here, too. I’ve watched that Dipset rap city freestyle thousands of times.

Second Chance Saloon
Ann Arbor, MI

The two of you that follow my twisted bi-weekly music newsletter The Boxxx Report might’ve spotted this already, but I gotta say, this might be peak live Ramones, and a current obsession. The band here is far along but not fully burnt. Their language is defined, they are rocking within it, operating at a high level and providing maximum rock & roll damage. Joey is singing really well.

It’s funny that The Ramones are considered by 99 percent of the world to be a classically New York band, because I personally associate them with Green Bay, Wisconsin and a scene of Ramones worship that went down there in the ‘90s and early-2000s. There was even a venue called Rock-N-Roll High School — no doubt a reference to Vince Lombardi High School in the movie of the same name.

The Ramones wanted to be an American band: the whole jeans, sneakers, leather jacket thing was an appeal to the heartland, an accessible look that kids from all over the country could figure out. The Ramones might’ve never become Middle American superstars, but they were cult heroes to a crew of kids I got to know, and that kind of reverence goes a long way. It’s special.

This video — and really every video I’ve shared here — is a prime example of true American Energy Music, and a major reason why I haven’t fully lost my mind. I don’t really know what more to say, but music helps. I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy.

Juiceboxxx is an American artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His forthcoming LP is slated for release on Dangerbird Records in early 2020.

(Photo Credit: Brad Dececco)